The Definition of QA Insanity

You might have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result? Software and Web applications are much the same way, in a twisted fashion of their own. You’re insane in QA if you do the same thing over and over again and expect to get the same result.

That’s why QA has to check everything, all the time, over and over again. The simplest and most slam-dunk, we’ve done this a million times before things. The things everyone else takes for granted. For example, let’s look at a simple state combo box/drop-down list.

You know it; it’s ubiquitous. It’s on every opt-in form, every sweepstakes entry, and most registration forms you’ve ever encountered. But QA must review it every time it appears, even though it’s usually part of a simple cast off requirement like “User enters address.”

Leaving aside the more important question of the actual requirements of what should appear in that drop-down list (Does offer extend to APOs/FPOs–that is, military or foreign service post offices? Are Possessions included, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Marshall Islands? How about our other possession, Canada? How should this control work with the Zip Code/Postal code control for data validation?) The developers, using fingers swollen from playing Halo 3 all night, sometimes introduce variations into the basic spellings of states. And you, gentle QA person, must review all contents of every drop-down list every single time you see one.

For example, here are a couple of interesting issues I found while trolling around the Internet just yesterday:

Alberta, Canada
Alberta, Canada, which is apparently different from Canada – Alberta.
New Foundland
New Foundland, which was probably named after the original county Foundland in England.
Quebec, almost
Special symbols are a bear in drop-down lists; just ask the person who encoded this. No, don’t ask him, he doesn’t think anything could possibly be wrong; he does state lists all the time.
North-West Territories
After the all night Cary Grant festival, the developer realized he had called it the North-by-Northwest Territories. Fortunately, though, he fixed it before anyone was the wiser.
Northwest Territory
Some developer tips off the Canadians to our plans for building a contiguous set of states and an Interstate highway to Alaska.
Northwest Territorie
Another developer tips of the invasion, but tries to cover the mistake by misspelling “Territory”.
Marshall Island
In retaliation, the Canadian Navy takes all but one of the Marshall Islands as a plucky little holdout eludes capture by both Canadian Navy ships by painting itself as a large whale.
Marshal Islands
These little islands, Dillon, Kane, and Gerard, off the west coast, should become a state any day now.
Virgin Island
In 2007, there is only one left, and it’s very self-conscious of the fact.
Military New York
Instead of AA, AP, and AE, we have armed two of our largest states. What could possibly go wrong?
Tennessee, Eastern
After a violent intra-state civil war, the state divides into its toothless region to the east and its banjo-pickin’ tribes to the west.
Canal Zone
Just for the record, the Canal Zone ceased to exist in 1979. Like 20 years before the Internet became popular. What it’s doing on a Web form, I have no idea.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent Cs.

Well, there’s your object lesson for today, friends. Those slam-dunks, appear all the time controls might be tempting to gloss over, but each one has the same chance (85%) for the developer to screw something up. It’s not limited to the state lists by any means; sometimes, they put in drop-down lists for birthdays and start the years at 1945, excluding everybody but the boomers and those who follow. Or, Heaven forefend, they expose client data in drop-down lists, allowing “administrators” to insert their own unique variations on reality.

That, my friends, is why QA must be ever vigilant, ever meticulous, and ever anal retentive in checking everything, every time.

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